Pulp and paper industry production grew 0.2% in 2015. Production of softwood sawn timber decreased 2.7%, however. The figures for pulp and paperboard were clearly more positive than other forest industry statistics, with production volumes growing in both categories.
The year 2015 was mixed for forest industry production. Fresh information on the industry’s past year emphasises how much a rapid leap in competitiveness is needed.
Last year’s greatest decrease in production was recorded for softwood sawn timber which fell 2.7% short of the volume produced in 2014. In all, some 10.6 million cubic metres of softwood sawn timber was produced. For its part, paper production contracted 2.6% to 7.3 million tonnes. Pulp production nonetheless increased 1.7% to a total of 7.1 million tonnes. Paperboard production was up 3.6% to 3.1 million tonnes.
Paperboard production grew to 810,000 tonnes in the fourth quarter, which is no less than 6.6% more than in the corresponding period of 2014. Pulp production increased four per cent in the final quarter and came to 1.9 million tonnes. Softwood sawn timber production decreased 0.5% in October-December, however, and totalled 2.7 million cubic metres. Paper production in the last part of the year was 2.3% lower than in 2014, totalling 1.8 million tonnes in the fourth quarter.
Ambitious social contract needed
A social contract, which lowers unit labour costs, and moderate wage settlements in next autumn’s trade union negotiations are required in order to keep domestic industry competitive.
“The social contract negotiations must come up with an ambitious solution, which improves corporate cost competitiveness rapidly and permanently. Finnish companies still suffer from expensive labour costs when compared to our competitor countries. Economic growth will not perk up and employment will not improve if the content of the social contract is watered down,” says Timo Jaatinen, Director General of the Finnish Forest Industries Federation.
“The competitiveness targets the government set must be held on to. More flexible labour markets and revisions to the industrial peace system are also needed to improve competitive ability. The sustainability of public finances must also be looked after. The finish line threatens to keep moving ever further away in economic policy,” Jaatinen says.
Investments liven up
Forest industry investments have started to grow. According to an investment survey conducted by the Confederation of Finnish Industries, an impressive 78% of the industry’s investments will boost capacity. This share is significantly higher than in other sectors of industry.
“Decision-makers must now do their share for the pace to pick up even more. The Programme for Government entry according to which industrial costs will not be increased during this electoral term is a good starting point. This is why emissions trading compensation must be realised in full,” says Jaatinen.
Last year’s volume of timber sales matched that of the previous few years, but made investments mean that demand for timber is growing strongly. Timber sales and the supply of wood must be strengthened with determination.